Hornby Island is a dot of land in British Columbia’s inside passage, a misty and green place quiet and secluded a couple miles offshore from Vancouver Island. Access is via two ferry trips, and once you’re there the pace of life slows down immediately. It’s a sleepy place with rolling waves, foggy beaches, and enchanted forests cloaked verdant green with moss, ferns, and towering pine trees that fade above into the gray.
This fall, on a trip through British Columbia, I spent three days on Hornby. I got up early one morning to do a solo trail run across the island’s wild west side and through Mount Geoffrey Regional Nature Park. My goal was the summit of the park’s eponymous mountain peak, the 1,080-foot Mount Geoffrey.
The mountain is the highest point on Hornby, and it’s accessed via the aptly-named “Cliff Trail,” which parallels the immense cliffy bluffs guarding the western edge of the island. As the sun dipped behind a wall of clouds, I took off for a run on the Cliff Trail with my SPOT device, a couple energy gels, water, a compass, and a lightweight shell in anticipation of the island’s common rain.
My map, a freebie snagged from the lobby at our cabin resort, was rudimentary. With an infusion of new mountain-biking trails in the park, I ran off the map and found myself lost more than once. At a trail intersection, I leaned back to read an unexpected sign: “4 Dead Aliens,” it foretold.
There was not another soul in the misty woods above the ocean. The run — a 5-mile route end to end — was quiet and serene, the moist air, soft forest floor, and mass of vegetation absorbing all noise. The animals on Hornby are quiet even.
Despite some navigational confusion, I made my objective less than an hour into the adventure. On the summit of Mount Geoffrey, an easy climb with a tree-choked view, I found prayer flags strung up and a cairn marking the high point. I set my camera on a self-timer mode to get an image. Then I ran east, following my compass needle on a bearing toward the far side of the island.
The woods opened enough that I could run off trail. I hopped logs and ducked under low branches. The mountain-biking trails, which rolled and looped in the woods, served as waypoints to prove I was headed the right way.
Two hours into the run, I stumbled out of the trees and onto a trail. The wide path led to a road, and I ran downhill toward a line of mountain bikers suited up and spinning toward the singletrack I’d just left behind. My “finish line” on Hornby was just ahead. For the bikers — pedaling fast, clicking into new gears — the adventure, including “4 Dead Aliens,” was still ahead.
—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com.